Facebook Rep Claims Uploaded Photos Become the Company’s Property

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Here’s something that may raise quite a few eyebrows among photographers who use Facebook: a representative of the social network has apparently said in an email that photos uploaded to Facebook become the company’s property.

To backtrack a bit, this whole thing started when photographer Corey Ann wrote a scathing piece through her Photo Stealers website about photographers she claimed had stolen many of the photos they were sharing online.

The accused photographers then reported Ann’s content to Facebook, and Facebook removed the Photo Stealers page with its 13,000 followers. Since then, Ann has spent weeks trying to get her Facebook page up through repeated bans and to reach someone at Facebook to argue her case to.

Ann says she was finally able to get in touch with a sales representative but was shocked by what she heard. Here’s a copy of the email she received:

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Here’s the section that caused Ann’s jaw to drop:

…once something is posted or uploaded onto Facebook it becomes Facebook’s property. So if the original photographer uploaded the photo first onto Facebook and then others have taken it from there and uploaded it to their pages or profiles, this is legal and within policy, there’s nothing I can do about it unfortunately even if they are taking credit for the photos.

Ann says she then asked the rep for clarification: “So, you are saying that any image I upload to Facebook is now Facebook’s property and anyone can steal it and so long as they are using Facebook they can do whatever they want with my copyrighted works?”

The rep then allegedly responded with an email of Facebook’s published policies, with a number of sentences highlighted:

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Facebook has done a lot to quell photographers’ concerns regarding copyrights in recent years, especially as various controversies have erupted regarding its terms and the policies of its Instagram service. The rep’s statement appears to contradict other things that Facebook has said before, so we’re guessing her email doesn’t reflect Facebook’s official stance.

Facebook has not yet responded to our request for comment, but we’ll update this post when they do.


Update: Facebook tells us that the representative’s response was incorrect. Here’s what a Facebook spokesperson tells us via email:

The information given in these emails is incorrect. Our terms are clear that you own the content you share on Facebook, including photos. When you post something, you simply grant Facebook a license to use that content consistent with our terms, including displaying it to the audience you’ve shared it with.

In addition, we prohibit people from posting content that violates someone else’s intellectual property rights. If a rights owner believes that content on Facebook violates their rights, they may report it to us. Upon notice, we stand ready to respond including by removing the content from Facebook.


Image credits: Header photograph by Franco Bouly

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